From the series “Get to Know the Clusters of the Kuopio Region”
In this article, from the “Get to know the clusters of the Pohjois-Savo region” series, we interviewed Johan Halvarsson, the project manager at SuperEcosystem. Through this article, you will learn about SuperEcosystem and what it does, how it fosters cross-pollination, how to bring together various clusters on a global scale, and what the key initiatives are to make the region stand out for investors.
Location: North Savo, Finland
As a certified ECCP meta-cluster, SuperEcosystem is the second meta-cluster recognized in Finland, the fourth in the Nordics, and the 23rd in Europe. They provide their clusters and ecosystems with direct access to networks and EU funding instruments. Members of the SuperEcosystem include eight separate ecosystems, clusters, and networks that have emerged around their key capabilities in different disciplines. With a total of 55.5 B€ in revenue and 2.9 B€ in profit of their members, these clusters and ecosystems include:
The goal behind the formation of SuperEcosystem was to bring together various parties such as University of Eastern Finland (UEF), Savonia University of Applied Sciences, Savo Vocational College (Sakky), The Geological Survey of Finland (GTK), Natural Resources Institute of Finland (Luke), Department of Health and Welfare (THL), different clusters and other organizations to begin working together across borders rather than simply inside verticals.
Before the formation of SuperEcosystem, a lot of research and studies were conducted. The project was then launched when an application was submitted to Pohjois-Savo Liitto (Pohjois-Savo Regional Council) and funding was received. The fundamental concept was to cross-pollinate various clusters in order to collaborate more efficiently and harness each other’s resources, innovations, and knowledge. The SuperEcosystem project, coordinated by Savonia University of Applied Sciences, officially began operations in January 2021 and will last until June 2023.
Essentially, SuperEcosystem does not provide services but rather coordinates the efforts of other entities.
In terms of acquiring financing from various instruments, SuperEcosystem assists different clusters and organizations in writing funding applications, as well as working with funding organizations to help applicants identify the correct instruments and apply. “Although it is possible to receive funding from a variety of sources to assist clusters and their businesses, the added value that SuperEcosystem provides by coaching, mentoring, and educating organizations on the importance of collaboration and the development of a strategy for their work (what we call strategy coaching) is far more important. In addition, frequent requests by companies for funds from various parties should not be the primary source of revenue and reason for existence, but rather the business itself should be backed by innovation. In terms of communication and marketing, we have begun the process of developing a comprehensive brand book for each cluster and ecosystem that they can utilize for themselves and for their businesses,” says Johan Halvarsson, Project Manager at SuperEcosystem.
SuperEcosystem is using a three-step approach towards strategy creation.
“First, we educate the clusters about what it means to work on a strategy; second, we support the clusters while they make their own strategy and help members with theirs; and third, the clusters independently work on their strategy and that of their members and firms continuously. After that, because everyone speaks the same language, we can all comprehend what this method means. This enables the strategies and actions to be shared because we understand each other’s intents and goals,” says Halvarsson.
SuperEcosystem provides several workshops to the clusters and ecosystems related to topics such as strategy, service design and development, branding, communication, and marketing to support their development. When firms in the region are compared to those in other European areas, there are often cases in which the firms are not on the same level. The aim is to bring them to the point where they can start speaking the same language, because that’s when they can understand one another. This includes two components: language skills and the use of a common language. To that end, that English has chosen to be the project’s official language.
Another significant feature that SuperEcosystem provides to clusters is the potential for networking, which allows them to gain more visibility and awareness. There are several opportunities in the Pohjois-Savo region that simply need to be highlighted. “We link various enterprises and networks in order to promote our members, who are clusters and ecosystems. Different collaborations include the NordicHub, ECCP, ELMO cooperation, and the ISPIM innovation conference,” mentions Halvarsson. As an ECCP-certified Meta-Cluster, SuperEcosystem aids clusters with financial advice, and through ISPIM (the world’s largest innovation network), they try to build B2B connections for companies.
SuperEcosystem has attempted to study other successful organizations and meta-clusters in Europe, such as Techtera, an innovation cluster for the French textile industry, to better understand how they operate. They are building solid relationships in Sweden, such as with Lund, Gothenburg, and Örebro, in order to learn from their success and serving as a bridge between different clusters, keeping them informed of what is going on in each one. A concrete result, for example, is that SuperEcosystem has been accepted as a member of TIM Meta-Cluster in Lund, Sweden starting from September 1, 2022.
“When it comes to internationalization, we need to make better use of the already existing presence of international students and hire them. It is critical to consider a matchmaker between the demands of the firms and current international students who have the desired competencies that the companies require,” highlights Halvarsson.
At SuperEcosystem, they intend to connect organizations that require a technology, service, or product with other organizations that can provide what they need. Together with the Kuopio Region Chamber of Commerce and the local enterprise society (Savon Yrittäjät), they attempt to assist and link businesses in terms of innovative product development, collaboration with other businesses, and funding applications.
Furthermore, SuperEcosystem intends to build a type of directory for different users to be able to reserve and take advantage of existing facilities such as labs, machinery, manufacturing lines, test settings, and other key resources. The directory supports the smart sharing of top equipment and expertise in Savo while simultaneously driving concrete cross-pollination between the different actors within a cluster and more importantly across verticals.
Kuopio is Finland’s second fastest growing city in terms of business growth. Almost 700 innovative concepts in the region were documented in 2021 (some recognized through a project ran in Kaavi municipality and others in Business Center North Savo), many of which have the potential to become profitable enterprises. What is occurring in SuperEcosystem with the “one trillion Euros for Europe” (Holzner, 2019) funding plan is that they are seeking to provide access to the European market for these idea holders and start communicating worldwide. Farmers and start-ups, as well as large corporations and organizations, may apply and are applying for various EU subsidies with the assistance and support of SuperEcosystem.
SuperEcosystem is looking forward to attracting more members. If you are interested in knowing more, please contact them.
 Read more about the publication in ISPIM innovation conference 2022, Fostering Innovation Ecosystem Development – Tools and Practices, here.
Holzner, M. (2019). One Trillion Euros for Europe. How to finance a European Silk Road with the help of a European Silk Road Trust, backed by a European Sovereign Wealth Fund and other financing instruments. Vienna: The Vienna Institute for International Economic Studies (wiiw).
Text: Parastoo Jalili